Editorials

That’s Jim ‘I’m not saying no’ Denning, standing over Kansas Medicaid expansion with a knife

Nearly a year later, Kansas man still waiting on Medicaid

Nyoka Isabell is trying to get her dad, Herbert Shaffer, 88, approved for Kansas Medicaid. His application has been pending for almost a year.
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Nyoka Isabell is trying to get her dad, Herbert Shaffer, 88, approved for Kansas Medicaid. His application has been pending for almost a year.

Kansas Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning may very well have killed Medicaid expansion for this year. Maybe Democrats will find some creative way to revivify their prospects; they haven’t given up.

But after Wednesday’s attempt to force the issue onto the Senate calendar fell one vote short, Denning will in all likelihood be able to take credit for keeping some 150,000 Kansans uninsured for another year.

He voted “pass” rather than “aye” or “nay.”

“I’m not saying no,” the Overland Park Republican said. “I’m saying this policy isn’t ready.”

As a direct result of Denning’s abstention, Sen. Larry Alley changed his “aye” vote, and the motion failed.

Why, since Denning insists he’ll support Medicaid expansion next year?

On Wednesday, the Senate majority leader said it would be foolish to spend money on expansion before the Kansas Supreme Court rules on whether the state has met its obligations under a school funding lawsuit.

In an interview on Monday, he said expansion had to wait because Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly wasn’t willing to compromise, though she’s repeatedly said otherwise. He said it would take time to draft the bill correctly. He said it would save Kansas money if the bill passed next year rather than this year: “If we can save a little bit of money and stretch this out, we should.” And he said there was no reason to rush because the uninsured meanwhile get great care in emergency rooms.

This is like saying I’d love to come to your party, but I have plans. And visitors from out of town. And I’m not feeling that well. Plus I might have to work late. (Translation: I just do not want to come to your party.)

Or in Denning’s case, I just do not want to expand Medicaid this year.

This does put him at odds with voters in his increasingly diverse and Democratic district, where Democratic state Rep. Cindy Holscher of Olathe recently announced she’s running against him on this issue.

But the most serious and relevant results of waiting another year are not budgetary, ideological or political. They’re human, and life-and-death, no matter how blasé the majority leader is about the health consequences of lacking insurance.

Though this is being cast as a political defeat for Kelly, that’s the absolute least of it. This is a real-life defeat for Kansans who deserve better from their elected representatives.

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